Founding Our Way
by Steven Tagle, Content Creator, New Agriculture for a New Generation

Meet Gerassimos

Gerassimos Mazarakis, 41, was born in Thessaloniki and lives in the neighborhood of Mpotsari. In 1983, when he was six years old, he joined Troop 9 of the Scouts of Greece, the national Scouting association founded in 1910 by Athanasios Lefkaditis. The Greek association has 20,000 members and includes the Scouts of Thessaloniki, established in 1914, which has 2,000 members.

“My father suggested that I join the Scouts when we saw a group of them playing in a park near our house,”Gerassimos said. “Thirty-five years later, I’ve passed all the ranks (Wolf Cub, Scout, Path-Finder) and now I am a Scout leader and a member of the training staff.”

Gerassimos took me to visit the Theodoros Litsas Scouting Center in Chortiatis, about 30 minutes from Thessaloniki atop the mountain called Hefaistio. At 1100 meters, Hefaistio is the highest mountain in the area. Driving through town, clouds hid the top of the mountain from view and seemed to spill towards us over the green, brown, and orange foliage. We climbed to the level of the gray clouds. “Thessaloniki’s there below us,” he said, pointing. When we arrived at the center, he introduced it to me as “our diamond.”

The center has played a huge role in Gerassimo’s life. It has a fire pit, an outdoor oven where Scout leaders were roasting souvlaki, and a small outdoor chapel. Birdhouses hung from the trees, and carved wooden signs pointed in different directions. Scouts in yellow uniforms and green hats busied themselves with various activities, chasing each other, dancing, playing cards. The center is still used by the Scouts because it’s so close to Thessaloniki, and the nearby military base maintains the trails in the winter. “I remember bringing my little Scouts up here the first time I led a trip,” Gerassimos said. “We spent the night in tents and enjoyed the starry sky by sharing the stories of the constellations.”

Founding Our Way

While participating in NANG’s Alternative Tourism program at the American Farm School last year, Gerassimos and his friend and fellow Scout Stavros Papadopoulos decided to start a company called Our Way to offer alternative excursions in Chortiatis. “We wanted to start this company because this is how we love to spend our free time,” Gerassimos said. “Chortiatis is like our second home, and we’ve been organizing trips here for many years. In essence, we’re turning our hobby into a profession.” The Alternative Tourism program taught them how to turn their idea into a reality: how to price the excursions, how to advertise them, and how to ensure the safety of their participants. They also met two of their collaborators, Apostolos Maloudis and Maria Liakopoulou, in the program. They named their company Our Way to highlight their unique approach to building lasting friendships through shared passions and alternative experiences.

“Stavros and I met in the Scouts 12 years ago, Gerassimos said. “We’re both members of the teaching staff, and slowly we became good friends.” They make a good team, and the easy, joking rapport between them makes each outing feel like meeting a group of friends. For its first excursion, Our Way organized a hiking trip that followed the path of the ice makers, people in Chortiatis who made and sold ice until refrigerators were invented in the 1960s. Their second event was a photographic treasure hunt following the map of Barba Nikitas, and their third excursion will take place this weekend.

Gerassimos completed a Master of Business Administration at CITY College, the Thessaloniki annex of the University of Sheffield. He has worked in the Purchasing Department at the American Farm School since 2000. His son, Konstantinos, is seven years old, and Gerassimos hopes that he too will join the Scouts.